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Russia set to decriminalise some domestic violence


Giving one’s spouse a slap is nothing extraordinary for many people in Russia, and this week the country’s parliament is expected to take a step closer toward decriminalising it altogether.

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Battery is a criminal offence in Russia, but nearly 20 per cent of Russians openly say they think it is sometimes OK to hit a spouse or a child.

In a bid to accommodate conservative voters, deputies in the lower house of parliament have given initial approval to a bill eliminating criminal liability for domestic violence that stops short of serious bodily harm or rape.

If the measure passes its second reading in the Duma on Wednesday, when the draft can be changed, approval in the third and final reading would be a foregone conclusion.

From the Duma, it would proceed to the upper house, and then to President Vladimir Putin’s desk.

Data on domestic violence in Russia are obscure, but interior ministry statistics show 40 per cent of all violent crimes in Russia are committed in family surroundings.

In 2013, more than 9000 women were reported to have been killed in incidents of domestic violence.

The bill stems from a Supreme Court ruling last summer to decriminalise battery that does not inflict bodily harm, but to retain criminal charges for those accused of battery against family members.

Conservative activists objected, saying the ruling meant a parent spanking a child could be punished more harshly than a non-relative striking the child.

Ultra-conservative MP Yelena Mizulina, who also authored Russia’s “gay propaganda” ban, then introduced the bill to decriminalise domestic violence.

The bill would make battery on a family member punishable by a fine of less than 30,000 roubles ($A666) or a 15-day arrest.

The Moscow-based Anna Centre foundation, which runs Russia’s only domestic violence hotline, received more than 5000 calls last year.

The foundation says many more calls that go unanswered since the line operates only between 7am and 9pm.

The Duma bill “is not going to improve the situation to say the least”, said Irina Matvienko, who runs the hotline.

“Domestic violence is a system which makes it difficult for a woman to seek help,” she said.

“It’s not a traditional value. It’s a crime. ”

National domestic violence helpline: 1800 737 732 or 1800RESPECT. In an emergency call triple-zero.

– AP

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